Massu muses on Fearless Draft, the LCS, and why less pros will get the chances he did. spoke with Flyquest's bot laner, Fahad "Massu" Abdulmalek, about his victorious series against NRG, the dwindling path for North America's (NA) pro hopefuls, and why he thinks Fearless Draft will be good for the game.

Massu is one of NA League of Legends' (LoL) latest resident stars, hailing from Canada by way of Iraq. He's on a roster filled with proven international talent, and isn't even a full year into his League Championship Series (LCS) career. We sat down with Massu after his games against NRG to talk about the split, the big announcements for the future of LoL esports, and why it's getting harder and harder for aspiring professional players to follow his footsteps. How are you feeling coming off of the NRG series, both personally and as a team?

Massu: "I think, individually, I’m not very satisfied with my performance overall. I think the first game I did fine, I think the second and third games I was not too good. I think there was a lot of stuff we worked on as a team that we’re applying in the game, and I’m happy about that. But I think there’s a lot more room."

We saw a lane swap, albeit unsuccessful, this series. Riot has tried to remove lane swaps from pro play post-MSI, but they keep popping up in many regions. Did Riot not do enough to disincentivize lane swaps, or has Pandora's Box been opened and now teams realize that the old-school "European" style of League of Legends isn't as universal as we once thought?

Massu: "Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. People have realized that when you play League, you have a lot of flexibility, you can do whatever you want. You need to assess for yourself what’s the issue that you have with the enemy composition, then how you can fix it. Then, especially if you have a weak bot lane, and you’re going to get pushed in, you’re going to lose bot camps if your jungler hasn’t taken them. If you’re going to lose plates anyway, then you may as well swap. You make the less [carry-oriented] champion, usually the top laner, lose gold and help your bot lane get to level three, at least.

"So then they can swap back and actually fight for lane control. I think people realized you can do that a lot more often, so that’s why lane swaps are more prevalent. I think, as long as people don’t lose their full turret during the lane swap, it’s good. Because the idea is that you’ll lose those plates anyway. You may as well put your bot lane in a good position so they can fight back later. "

Massu (Image via Riot Games)
Massu (Image via Riot Games)

How do you feel about the new international event and the introduction of Fearless Draft onto the international tier one LoL Esports stage? How will this format change the way teams and players approach the event?

Massu: "Personally, I think Fearless is a good addition. I think it forces a lot more creativity and a lot more problem-solving in draft. In a given patch, you usually have a few OP champions who are really strong, and then you trade them out and see if you can give X champion, what can you get for it? And I think Fearless Draft lets you be a lot more creative in terms of ‘Oh, they took this champion, now it’s out for the rest of the series,’ so the drafts can fully change. If today was Fearless Draft, maybe AP junglers don’t get picked in Game 3. Maybe it switches to a whole different game where the jungler’s a tank, and instead of playing around AP junglers, you play carry top or carry bot. I think Fearless will force teams to be more creative when they draft and be more considerate. 

"In terms of how it changes international play, there’s the Fearless international tournament, which I think the teams that have multiple strengths and are very flexible will be the strongest at. I think since MSI and Worlds aren’t Fearless, it’s still good because everybody will have a wide pool of champions they can pick from and a lot of styles they can play because they were forced to in Fearless. So, all the teams will be forced to flex more than one style. "

Do you think, if the Fearless Draft tournament is a success, that Fearless Draft should become the default way to play pro LoL, with the unique champion count at nearly 170?

Massu: "I’ve been thinking about this a lot, but I haven’t actually formulated my opinion on it. I think, once I play Fearless, I’ll get an idea of what it feels like and what it looks like, and I’ll know better if I think it’s a good thing long-term or not. But, for the moment, I do think it’s a positive change. "

Now that you've settled into it a bit, how are you enjoying best-of-threes as the LCS format?

Massu: "I’m personally a really big fan of best-of-threes. It makes the matches so much more exciting for us as well, so I can imagine it’s a lot more exciting for fans, too. I think it’s just a way more accurate showing of a team’s strengths. Because, sometimes, two teams go against each other and the first game can, honestly, just be unlucky. Then the losing team has no way to come back. With best-of-threes, if a game goes wrong, you can adapt and be creative, you can change how you approach the draft, maybe you find different weaknesses for the enemy team. So I think it gives a much more accurate showing of both teams’ strengths when you get to play a best-of-three rather than a best-of-one. "

With the changes to American LoL, there will be even less slots for domestic North American talent come 2025. As somebody who's had a relatively rapid ascent to pro play, what are your thoughts on the development of NA talent, and how do you see that path for more players like you to get the chance to play on the LCS stage now and in the future?

Massu: "To me, personally, I’ve always thought, and I don’t know how this works, it’s like marketing and all that, Riot should focus more on pushing League of Legends to younger audiences. I think that’s usually where games [succeed]. If you can somehow create a game, and an esport, where it constantly has young people flooding in, and watching it, and looking up to it, then you will always have aspiring pro players like in Korea. Korea has millions of 10 to 15-year-olds that play the game because they saw Faker, or they saw another pro, and they really want to be like them. I think that’s something we lack in NA. I think young people are playing VALORANT and mostly shooters, I’d guess. If there’s a way to make League more accessible to a new player, I think that would be good. "

Got any messages for your fans and Flyquest fans looking forward to the rest of the split?

Massu: "Thank you for watching, and hopefully you guys keep watching because we are nowhere near our ceiling."